Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ensuring Nutrition Security and banishing Profits

A Bhil tribal before taking his food always dedicates a small piece to the Gods. This is an acknowledgement that the food is a gift from nature. This reverence for the forces of nature that make it possible to have food is a feature of all religions and cultures which were the products of a traditional agricultural lifestyle. Even though humans had developed agriculture for a long time they remained dependent on the vagaries of nature and so they paid their obeisance to it. The Bhil tribals have in fact named some of their main Gods after their food crops. Kansari the most prominent Goddess of the Bhils is symbolic of the staple cereal sorghum and is propitiated through elaborate night long rituals accompanied by the singing of epic paeans to her virtues as a life giver.
This reverence for nature also resulted in the Bhils developing their agriculture in tune with the natural endowments of their dry land environment. It was a highly bio-diverse agriculture. Each small plot had many crops of cereals, pulses and oilseeds with various levels of capacity to sustain water stress. So, regardless of whether there were too much or too little of rains some part of the crop would always come in. Simultaneously the forests too provided many fruits and vegetables. Even some of the weeds in the agricultural fields were eaten as food. Thus, there was a bio-diverse agriculture that made the best use of the local natural resource endowment and gave the tribals foods rich in necessary nutrients. These foods were cooked simply and provided a wholesome meal to the Bhils with which they could work hard in the fields and the forests. They remained healthy and active despite the hard work.
However, with the coming of the modern economy all this gradually began changing. Subsistence farming was replaced by commercial agriculture. Instead of producing for home consumption the Bhils were enticed into producing for the market. The bio-diverse agriculture was replaced with mono-cropping and instead of organic manure, chemical fertilisers were introduced. However, this latter regime was not suitable to the soil and water situation of the mostly undulating lands of the Bhils and so despite the greater investments in chemical inputs, irrigation and hybrid seeds the yields have been less and less over time. The money earned from crops such as cotton and soyabean is not enough to buy adequate food from the market. Due to the cultivation of soyabean the production of pulses has gone down drastically. So the Bhils are eating food that is inferior in quality and quantity. This is in fact a trend in agriculture throughout the world regardless of the natural endowments of the land but it is more pronounced in the poorer soil and water resource environments in which the Bhils live.
The Bhils today have no answer to their food woes like other marginal farmers around the world. The multinational corporations controlling commercial agricultural from inputs to the food reaching the dining table, too, do not have any answers to this problem busy as they are in ensuring more and more profits rather than food security. Matters have been compounded by Financial companies speculating on the global agricultural commodity futures markets to bolster their profits which have been threatened by the downturn in the other financial security markets. 
There has to be a radical re-orientation of agriculture and our food habits and this will only be possible if we also think of re-orienting the industry and the economy. Unless there is a move away from profit making in general there is very little chance of establishing bio-diverse organic agriculture and ensuring local food and nutrition security.

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